Time; God’s Great Thing.

A memory-maker

A dream spinner,

a way to heal, to transform.

Where, in the long stretches,

do moments turn into memory?

August Popsicles dripping down a summer dress

Warm Septembers,

Rusty, breezy Octobers,

Chilly Novembers giving way to winter,

and those nights I used to write and write.

Countless seasons have passed me by,

I am left clinging to childhood, to a carefree

sense of wild freedom,

of so much time to do so much,

and now, too many distractions,

and too little time.

 

Nesha Usmani

 

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whether a princess or a prince.

you are but a tiny thing

barely four inches of existence

with blood and body I carry

but have not yet seen.

For a decade now, I’ve prayed for you

to one day become a part of me.

You are part of two,

two that love and cherish each other

who love and cherish you.

Whether you are to be

a wild-haired princess;

free spirited, huge-hearted,

brimming over with adventures

or

a benevolent prince,

wide-eyed,

eager for knowledge,

with enough wisdom and love

for a hundred men

Whether a princess or a prince,

We wait for you with barely constrained

impatience, and so, so much hope.

 

Nesha Usmani

Soul Space Interfaith’s Reflections, Volume IV, Spring 2014

Soul Space Interfaith’s Reflections, Volume IV, Spring 2014

Assalamu Alaikum

I’m really pleased to share that my poem “Dunes” has been published in Soul Space Interfaith’s Spring 2014 Reflections. I really admire this organization, for a lot of reasons.

Here’s an excerpt from their “About Us” section:

“We are women, old and young, seekers all, keepers  of our own individual and congregational faith practices and wanting to better understand and honor the faith of others. We come to share experience and wisdom, to acknowledge distinctions, and discover connections among our faiths.  At present, we are women of the book—Jewish, Christian and Muslim. We welcome all women of faiths. In order to foster soul space among us, we agree to bracket religious politics and disputes for attention in separate venues.”

Thank you, Soul Space!

Eid

Bismillahi Ar Rahmani Ar Rahim

Eid Mubarak!

Another Ramadan has passed us by, and while we are so grateful, Alhamdulillah, we pray that inshAllah Allah will give us another one.

Today, with a house spilling over with food, guests, laughter, and conversation (Alhamdulillah), I reflected on how much has changed in the last few years. How diverse our group of friends has become and how much we’ve changed ourselves, as people, as Muslims.

You know, it wasn’t so long ago that our Ramadans were spent with members of our Pakistani and Indian community. Iftars were every evening, almost, at Uncle and Auntie so and so’s house. On Eid, we’d go house-hopping at every one of our Pakistani/Indian friend’s houses, ending up in food comas with the girls I grew up with.

It wasn’t a bad thing by any means! In fact in many ways, I miss it.

But you grow up. You meet new people. You change. Your families change.

In the past three years or so, our Iftars have evolved. Now we rarely host Iftars at our home. Instead, we have community Iftars at our mosque, supporting the message and goal of our New Muslim Support Network. And through that we’ve adopted a diverse array of new friends into our inner circle. From your Caucasian revert to your African-American revert to your Indonesian immigrant. Your new sister from Ethiopia. Your brother who studied Islam and went against his family in his reversion. Your sheikh from the Phillippines, a revert himself, and his wife and their children. The whole, beautiful family that reverted to Islam. The sister who can’t catch a break because she’s juggling a job and kids and a husband who cares nothing for her. Or the sister without a husband who holds fast to her deen tighter than she holds on to you as she hugs you.

And…I think.

Alhamdulillah…SubhanAllah. Where was I when you needed me?

…I’m no scholar or religious leader.

But one thing I do know is that Islam is not a religion of feasts and celebrations. That’s not what Islam teaches us.

It’s the rope that binds us all together, and in the words of my favorite sheikh, it requires everything from you.

It takes your language. It incapacitates culture. It blinds you to race and social status. It turns your house into a home, makes it welcoming for all who enter. Turns your meal for two into a meal for three. Your meal for three into a meal for four. When it opens your eyes, it turns your idea into work. Your work into hard work. Your hard work into success. All by the mercy of Allah, SWT.

It turns your tears of laughter into tears of humility. Tears of awe of the mercy and power of Allah.

I wouldn’t have it any other way.

I’m so ashamed when people come into my parents home and they’re so happy to be there and compliment the house and the decor.

And I smile and think subhanAllah. I had nothing to do with this! This is not my idea. All this came from GOD!

I just reply, “Alhamdulillah,” and to the kids I say, scoldingly, “Say mashAllah!

It’s such an amazing thing. To look outside my window and see soo many people of different backgrounds and stories walking to my front door. I can’t help but think how badly we need them. How badly we need them for Allah’s sake.

SubhanAllah.

I’m begging you. InshAllah, the next Eid, if your family doesn’t do this already, invite members of your Muslim community that are reverts, immigrants, or just new to the community. Let them enrich your life with their experiences and the rewards that Allah will give you in including them in your festivities.

We get stuck in this rut of Arabs and Arabs. Pakistanis and Pakistanis. Indians and Indians. African Americans and African Americans. Whites and whites. Reverts and reverts. Or reverts and their pet cats.

Islam is not this! Ramadan is not this! Eid should NEVER be this!

Tear those walls down, man.

Ok, I’m done ranting 🙂

Assalamu Alaikum.

 

 

 

Valley

post Fajr hours during Ramadan:
The daylight follows quickly
On the heels of sleep.
No water to lull anxious nerves
And this deprivation turns you
Towards Allah
While a part of you is ashamed
That deprivation is a more powerful
Motivation than gratitude.
You think of people who spend hours
Thanking Allah, with tears flowing.
Or begging Allah, with fear and dread in their hearts.
And you fear a polarization between the thankful and the deprived.
And you wonder if you’re the former or the latter.
If Alhamdulillah is, in your case, reserved only for gain
And Astaughfirullah shows its face only for loss
And if the valley between these mountainous supplications is a dry barren land
No blessing in between?
No well of blessed water between this Safa and Marwa?
You wonder if shukr lies hidden in the middle of constancy.
If the answer to your Dua might come easier if your repentence and remembrance were given constantly,
And not forgotten in the time where nothing spectacular nor disastrous happens,
But also given in the peace between,
Where needs are met effortlessly
And difficulties are mere pebbles on the path.
The light brightens in the room as fear and sadness still tick softly within your heart
And you think of all the Sahabah (ra) and the Rasuls (AS) and beloved Muhammad (SAW)
And their heartbreaks, desires, and goals.
And their sabr shines out.
Between the mountain of blessings and the mountain of calamity is a valley of sabr (patience).
And in the middle, perhaps, is an oasis of shukr (gratitude).
You whisper: ‘Alhamdulillah’
As fear, sadness, and hope tick softly on
As the water drips from your tired eyes.

Nesha Usmani
July 14 2013

Fasting in Ramadan; Answering the Question ‘Why?’

Bismillahi Ar Rahmani Ar Rahim

Assalaamu Alaikum & Ramadan Kareem

I think every Muslim blogger at some point has a ‘why do Muslims fast’ post. So I’m just fulfilling my duty, but in a different way. I won’t go into the hows’ and the whens’ and the whats’. My question is posed to myself…why do I fast? Is it habit? After so many years of practicing Islam and taking part in Ramadan? Have I lost the reasoning or have I never noticed until now?

I’ve made so many mistakes this year, subhanAllah. So many errors and misjudgements. May Allah forgive me,  Ameen. But I have also grown closer to Islam. Alhamdulillah. There was a time in my life not very long ago that the mention of seeking Islamic knowledge would give me anxiety and a sense of severe insecurity.  One of the biggest blessings Allah has ever given me, as far as I can understand, is the ability to move beyond this problem, and connect me to my Deen emotionally and mentally, which, Alhamdulillah, is now connecting me to my Deen physically. Allahu Akbar!

If you practice Islam then you are familiar with the Dunya vs Akhira conflict. How do we find balance in getting what we want in Dunya as well as in the Afterlife? This is a crucial concept in Islam. In declaring your belief in Allah (SWT), Master of the Day of Judgement, Lord of the Worlds, and Muhammad (Peace and Blessings be upon him) as Messenger of Allah. you MUST place your entire trust in Allah and you MUST relinquish your grip on this world, and everything that distracts you from seeing your true purpose. Live in this world as a traveler or stranger! (Quote from the Prophet (PBUH) as narrated Abdullah Ibn Umar).

Does that mean we cannot achieve success in this world? Does that mean we cannot pursue our worldly dreams of become a doctor, engineer, a famous writer or artist?  Allah does not want us to be miserable and lazy in this world. In my opinion, all this means is that whatever you do, do for Allah. Whatever you pursue, make sure the cause is halal, and the intention is pure and for Allah’s sake. If Allah gives you success in this world, give back with your duty. Your zakat. Your salah. Your nafl and sunnah. Your belief and your time. And most importantly, do not make your success your home. Do not make your gifts from Allah into attachments that will take you away from Allah (because they will).

So…let’s cycle back to our original topic. How does all of this relate to the Holy month of Ramadan?  How does this relate to refraining from food, water, sexual activity, rude behavior and wasting time, as well as refraining from negativity, such as anger, impatience, and ignorance? In other words, why do we, as Muslims, do this, and not something else?

I’m not a scholar. Nor do I have extensive knowledge, but based on what I do know, a thought sort of  hit me square in the face the other day. And it wasn’t from the angle of Dunya. It was from the angle of Jannah. From what I know of Jannah, it is our true home. Our real existence that is promised to us should we succeed in our duties in this life. It is a place with no death, hunger, disease, poverty, anger, jealousy, or injustice. The things that are harmful here are not harmful there, such as wine and excess (you won’t become greedy). The things that distracted us won’t distract us there, rather they will be gifts for us made even more pleasing. such as the love, beauty, and intimacy of our spouses.

In Ramadan, we let go of the Dunya’s version of all these things (and what a poor version it is, when you look at Jannah). Allah is testing you with hunger, thirst, desire, control over your actions and emotions, how you treat your fellow Muslim, your spouses, your children. He, Allahu Akbar, is asking you what you want. Do you want this world and its food that does not satisfy? Its wealth that will lead you astray, that you cannot take with you when you die? Do you want this world, where the objects of your love, desire and affection are never guaranteed to stay, no matter how much you love them?

Or do you want JANNAH? Where our problems cease to exist. Where our greatest mercy from Allah (SWT) becomes our home.

Will you fast in a manner that counts the minutes until the next Iftar? Or will you take advantage of the hours and use them to supplicate, thank, worship, repent, and humble yourself, seeking knowledge and forgiveness from your Lord? Will you be impatient with those around you, your friends and family? Or will you love them and cherish them, and even improve your relations with them for the sake of Allah (SWT)?

Know that Allah is your Master. Only He can correct your affairs. And this is why we let go of Dunya, in the month and hours that Allah has prescribed, in a kind of annual dosage, that, Alhamdulillah, if we live to see it and use it correctly, we reap rewards innumerable,  are brought closer to Allah, and pulled further from Dunya, inshAllah.

We fast to regain sight of the blessings already given to us. We fast to remove ourselves from Dunya and to show Allah that despite our empty stomachs, our greater fear is an empty Emaan. An empty spot in Jannah where we could be, and the fiery realm where we might be. We fast to take advantage of every salah, taraweeh, and every moment  to worship, thank, repent, and supplicate to Allah. Allah, without Whom, we’d be nothing, could be nothing, and with Whom, could have everything He deems best for us. All we need to do is ask sincerely, with a heart full of Emaan. SubhanAllah!

Allahu Akbar.

If I’ve said anything wrong, please correct me, inshAllah.

And Allah knows best.

May Allah give you a Ramadan filled with ease, mercy, rewards, and opportunities to gain His infinite reward.  May Allah correct your affairs for you, and bring you closer to Him. Ameen

Tiny Changes

Tonight, while cooking dinner at the end of a very long day, I went to my Pandora app on my phone and tapped one of my custom radio stations.

But, while chopping vegetables, I realized that I wasn’t feeling all that great about Bruce Springsteen as I used to.

In fact, on the way to the animal shelter a few days ago, another artist I used to like was, at that moment, causing me a great deal of ache in my head  (see what I did there?) the sound was echoing weirdly and it just fhjghrjkh gw hoijdsijfhdbjh.

Tonight, what I actually wanted to listen to was a series on Muhammad (Peace be upon him), whilst dicing up the celery and stripping the chicken of the fat.

Now, before you go all crazy and tell me, “now, Nesha, things like that are not meant to be used as background noise…tsk tsk tsk”

I know. It wasn’t! I was listening, I promise.

I also listened to it on the way home from the animal shelter today, and I became very emotional whilst listening to the revelations about Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon him)  that are actually mentioned in the Bible! Citing the sources and Bibles as well!

SubhanAllah!

The amount of information I don’t know, the knowledge I didn’t try to pursue until know has become overwhelming to me. How could I not know about the similarities between Musa (AS) and Muhammad (SAW)? How could I not have ever slaked my curiosity about the Prophet’s (PBUH) wives (RA)?? Why did I never contemplate the reason for all of the Prophets (peace and blessings be upon them) being shepherds of sheep, and not of, say, horses? Why sheep? Why goats? Why them? The significance of the word “IQRA”, what it meant to Rasulullah (SAW), and what it means for us, and why it’s different from his. The mathematical proof of Rasulullah’s (SAW) revelations…and his beautiful mind and love for his Ummah.

His acceptance of gifts over charity (concerning himself , Peace be upon him).

The building and rebuilding (5 times!) of the Ka’bah.

Muhammad (SAW)’s ancestry. His parents! SubhanAllah.

The information I’ve learned and digested so far…just…wow. SubhanAllah. I don’t know that I’ve ever appreciated my religion and ALL of the Prophets (PBUthem) as much as I do now. The history is just so intense and incredible.

haha, I definitely don’t remember Sunday school being as interesting and awe-inspiring. It brings me to my knees in wonder and amazement, and praise to Allah (SWT).  Allahu Akbar.

It also makes me realize how much more there is to learn. May Allah make it easy, fulfilling and beneficial, Ameen!

The next few months are going to be umm….crazy.

In a day, or two, my sister’s coming home FINALLY. InshAllah.

Next weekend something awesome is going to happen, inshAllah.  Or at least I hope. InshAllah.

After that I’m apartment hunting in Chicago inshAllah ….because I’m going to grad school there, inshAllah!!!

And then in mid-June, I’m off to Scotland to visit family and absorb the accent and come back skinny and Scottish. Or atleast skinny, inshAllah.

InshAllah, at the endish of August I’ll be moving to Chicago.

And then will proceed to lose all sanity and social life to classes like “Biostatistics” and “epidemiology.”

Gulp.

In between all these titanic sized events I’m going to continue, inshAllah, to learn more about Islam and also try to improve myself. Also try to figure out why my body is conspiring against me.

Either it does not realize that exercise and diet = weight loss, or it’s just completely insubordinate. Doctor’s appointment on Tuesday, inshAllah, we’ll see what’s going on there.

On a side note, if I have any lady readers out there (yes, you, o’pretty one), I have a gift for you.

2 tbsp greek yogurt

2 tsp turmeric

1 tsp lemon juice

combine in a bowl. Smoosh on your face.

THE. BEST. FACE. MASK. EVER.

***please keep in mind that turmeric is a rather hyper shade of yellow. It will leave a yellow tinge. To remove this, put boiling water into a large bowl, and cover the bowl with a large towel. Duck your head beneath the towel and let the steam rise against your face in 10-15 second intervals, gently using the towel to exfoliate in an upwards-rubbing-motion in between intervals. repeat until water is cooled or you’ve had enough, OR, just wash your face with a gentle cleanser and use a make-up removing wipe to clear up the rest.***

you’re welcome 🙂

Nesha